I have owned a copy of this book since before I was on Goodreads, and it’s been on my “TBR” even longer than that. (I no longer remember how I used to keep track of books I wanted to read before Goodreads.) It was also one of the first books I pulled out of my TBR Jar for 2022, and really, it was about time. And it was fun! A little weird, a little nonsensical (and whimsical), but fun.
There are two short stories in this slim little book, although really I think “Farmer Giles of Ham,” the second of the two, is more novella-length. Both are what Tolkien himself would have called “fairy-stories”, and both are very obviously written for children. People call The Hobbit a children’s book, in that Tolkien created it as a bedtime story for his son Christopher, but The Hobbit has precise worldbuilding and consistently follows the in-universe rules Tolkien created for himself. It is situated in a very firm date and place. These two stories are not. If you think about either of them for too long, the worldbuilding in both makes less and less sense. Little kids don’t care about that kind of thing.
“Smith of Wootton Major” is the story of a boy who swallows a faery star as a child, and what happens to him after. This was cute, but makes the least sense, because you have to buy in to the premise that the King of Faery would a) Disguise himself as a teenaged boy, b) Willingly become an apprentice, and then put up with having a dolt of a master for seven years, and c) Spend fifty years living as a human with no companionship just so he can cook for some humans for a while. Tolkien’s storytelling is playful, but it probably won’t stick with me.
“Farmer Giles of Ham” is a much more fleshed-out, and better constructed story, even if it is set in the past in our world in some unspecified time where firearms were a thing but somehow it was also still the middle ages, and dogs could talk and there are dragons and giants and things. Makes no sense. Farmer Giles (whose real name is Ægidius Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo, translated as Giles Redbeard Julius, Farmer of Ham, even though this book is supposed to be set before Britain was conquered by Rome, they still speak Latin, whatever at this point) is talked into helping to slay a dragon after a series of circumstances leads the village and surroundings to believe him a hero. He mostly falls into everything and isn’t very cunning, so the story is less fun than it could have been. Also, his dog can talk, but he and his wife are mean to it, kicking it and throwing things and beating it, so fuck that. I was confused if I was supposed to be rooting for him or what. Tolkien liked dogs as far as I know. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Anyway, glad I finally read this, but I have already traded in my copy to my local used bookstore.